Aqaba - Kings Highway
The end point of the King’s Highway, this Red Sea port city for thousands of years have harbored many vessels, people, and fortifications. The first Islamic city outside of the Arabian peninsular was also established in Aqaba.
The biblical city of Ezion-Geber, location at the extreme northern port of the Gulf of Aqaba, is likely placed around the modern town of Aqaba. However, the city wasn’t firmly established on the Martime trade route until the 600’s when the Umayyads established a port on the Red Sea. At the head of the Red Sea, here connects Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent by sea routes, as well as the start, or end, of the vital King’s Highway upwards towards the Levant. Walking through the almost barren remains of Ayla, it’s ancient name, one can make out gate, alleyways and walls of the former city. Only the lower courses of the fortifications of Ayla are seen now, however, the city was once significantly more impressive. The ruins of Ayla today sit between a busy thoroughfare of Aqaba and a five-star hotel. Much has changed, the looking westward the glistening blue waters of the Red Sea have likely been unchanged, with hundreds of boats departing and arriving every day.
Aqaba, like many cities of the region, has multiple layers of history to untangle. One kilometer south of Ayla, and a few hundred years forward in history, the core of the city shifted to the site of a castle. Originally the site of the crusaders, taking advantage of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean trade route, a fort was constructed. A walk through the fort today mostly encompasses an Ottoman remodel from the early 16th century. Fast forward to the present, Aqaba still retains its maritime importance, especially considering it is Jordan’s lone ocean port. Extensive markets and souks, Grand mosques, and bustling harbors are still a scene in the life of Aqaba today. Aqaba, with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia within view, reminds the explorer of the great world at its fingertips waiting to be explored on a vessel.